The Dark Side of the Super Bowl: Child Sex Trafficking
So near yet so far from the razzle-dazzle excitement of America’s premier sporting event, child sex trafficking is the dark side of the Super Bowl. Last year, tens of thousands of trafficking victims were brought to the Miami area, forced to service hordes of horny men with cash to burn. With the average age that girls are tricked into sex slavery being 13, many of the victims were children.
With tomorrow’s Super Bowl XLV to be played in Arlington, Texas, human trafficking experts and law enforcement officials fear there could be even more victims exploited. Texas has the second highest number of trafficking victims after California, with 38% of all calls to the national human trafficking hotline originating in the Lone Star State.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who described the Super Bowl as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States,” has impressed activists with how seriously he’s taking the threat.
“The involvement of the attorney general and law enforcement is far greater than anything we’ve seen before,” Malika Saada Saar, executive director of the anti-trafficking group Rebecca Project for Human Rights, told Newsweek. “We’re trying to send a message to human traffickers that we are watching them,” Abbott said. “We will find them, arrest them, and put them behind bars.”
To that end, the FBI and the attorney general’s office have assigned two dozen extra officers who will target the pimps and johns who trade in children. Targeting these men, rather that the girls who are their victims, is a refreshing and just strategy that differs from years past when the girls were often arrested and imprisoned.
“Sometimes, if not frequently, people who are seemingly offering up prostitution services are victims of human trafficking,” Saada Saar told Newsweek, “Instead of trying to commit a crime, they are victims of a crime.”
It’s not just law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups that are making an effort to combat this disgusting crime. Representatives from major airlines like American, Delta, United, Qantas and American Eagle have held training sessions to teach employees how to spot trafficking victims. Even players have gotten involved: Jay Ratliff, a three-time Pro-Bowler from the Dallas Cowboys, made a public service announcement titled “Real men don’t buy children.”